October 8, 2009

An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon: Review

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Whew! I made it! I finally finished reading all 813 pages. If you've read or are considering reading An Echo in the Bone, then you are a die hard Diana Gabaldon fan. This is the seventh book in the Outlander series and they seem to grow in proportion to the number of new characters introduced. Yes, there's a cast of thousands by this book.

Okay, I am a die hard fan. Let's put that out there. I started reading these books when I was 19. I won't say how long ago that was but there were only 2 in the series at the time. The series has grown with me but some things never change. Claire and Jamie still hump like bunnies (get the hose). They still get into hot water. And there's always war.

So, when we left our heroes they were planning on going to Scotland but they get waylaid by the American Revolution. Roger and Brianna went through the stones to get back to the present (future?). Here's the run down- bullet style:
  • people get killed
  • people come back from the dead
  • vengeance, comeuppance and reconciliation
  • there is surgery
  • there is loss of body parts
  • there be pirates
  • war.war.war.
  • love triangles
  • sex
  • blood
  • everyone is dirty, stinky & hungry
  • Everybody Loves Ben Franklin
  • a Cape Bretoner shows up & gives a shout out to his homies in Boisdale
  • people cross the ocean so much they get frequent travel points
  • Scotland
  • seeeeecrrrrreeets
An Echo in the Bone has numerous subplots intertwining and tangling through the story. It must be a small 18th century after all because people keep running into their ancestors/descendants out in the wilderness so often you fear for the space/time continuum. Doc and Marty would be worried.


Then as quick as you can adjust your flux capacitor, it's Back to the Future with Roger and Brianna in present day (1980) Scotland where they watch events unfold through Ye Olde Letters and textbooks. The 20th century is just too safe and boring. Roger teaches Gaelic and Brianna engineers. They have lots o'sex (get the hose). It's so ho-hum you wonder when Brianna will turn to Roger and say, "Roads? Where we're going we don't need roads." But then things get interesting and there's only 50 pages left and you suspect Gabaldon's real name is Cliff Hanger.

So then you come to the end of 813 pages and feel like you've haven't really gotten anywhere but it sure was fun anyway. After all, it's like reading about old friends. The characters are so well written they are real people. People I don't always agree with, people who get on my nerves sometimes- you know, like family. And I love them. Cause you got to love family.

I did have a few issues. There is just too much of the war. Enough already! And a couple of scenes just didn't seem like they belonged. But you never know that whole series might hinge on those scenes in Book 11. There also seemed to an awful lot of amazing coincidences. Still, I won't hold any grudges because Gabaldon's words are like sinky sand, you disappear into them.

To sum up: Made of awesome!

Thanks to Random House Canada for the review copy.

If you are a member of the Book Blogs Ning and the group Historical Fiction Fanatics, come join a discussion of the book (WITH SPOILERS) when you are ready.

27 comments :

  1. I love these books too! :-) No matter how much the characters annoy me, I just can't get enough of them. The ending drove me absolutely crazy since I now know I'm going to have to wait another 3 or 4 years to find out what happens!

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  2. I read the first book in this series and haven't quite made it any further. One day I will... By then, maybe it will be done and there will be no waiting!

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  3. Kailana- That's a smart move.

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  4. I so want to read this series, but it seems like it might eat my reading life. Like the new template btw, very clean and the headings draw the eye, so it's easy to follow.

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  5. I so want to read this series, but it seems like it might eat my reading life. Like the new template btw, very clean and the headings draw the eye, so it's easy to follow.

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  6. I love these books too! Can you believe I've only read the first one and half of Dragonfly in Amber? I happened to be in the middle of my internship while I was reading DIA and couldn't pick it back up again.. so now I am determined to go back and read them all when I get the chance!

    Allison
    Well-Read Reviews

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  7. Wow, you read that really fast! I've never read Outlander. I did read one of the other books, but it was way too long. Plus I was horribly confused because I hadn't read the previous ones in the series.

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  8. I skipped your revie because I'm in this one now. I have a tour this coming week, so I'm starting the book in audio, but I'm going to switch to print when I finish my tour books.

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  9. I am a fan as well! I have read the first few pages but I don't know when I am going to be able to finish it!

    I loved when there were the two different timelines in Voyager so I am happy again this time.

    i am concerned that in this one it will be like the last couple of books. You have to read through a lot of pages to get to those magic scenes that Gabaldon writes that make you want to keep reading.

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  10. I hope I don't die before we get to know the outcome! After reading Echo I loved Diana even more, but HATED her at the same time! OHHH, my GOD!!The waiting will be torture.

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  11. Echo in the Bone...HATED THIS BOOK!!! Diana wrote a great Outlander series (I have worn out 3 copies of Crossstitch having re-read it so much)with tear your heart out emotions, then went on to write the dull, dry and boring Lord John series. Seems she has forgotten or is unable to find her initial writing style. Boring, Boring, Boring. Jamie and Claire are written in balck & white instead of their own glorious techicolour!

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  12. Love your review! I am a fan as well!!! I do think the first three books are the most interesting and they grow progressively laborious as the series moves forward. HOWEVER, (big HOWEVER)I can't get enough of Claire and Jamie even in their middle age. I am addicted--totally and completely obsessed! And if Diana writes 20 books I will read them all and hose off when I am done! HA!

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  13. I have read every word of every page of all Gabaldon's books in this series. I love the series. I got really angry at the end of this one, though, because she drags the plot along with meandering scenes, then finally when there's some action, she just stops writing. Aaaargh! I skipped entire chapters about William because they were so boring. Somebody needs to get Ms. Gabaldon an EDITOR!!

    I am also a writer and I kept muttering to myself things like "That scene should've ended there! / Why is she introduing THIS character?!/ Where is she going with this little subplot?!" Maddening!

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  14. Dee- I agree it could have used more editing. A few scenes weren't necessary, like the one with the prostitute's terrible death. I have no idea why that was in there.

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  15. Great books - Loved this book as much as the others but hated the ending - I looked back through the last few chapters wondering if I missed something - can't believe we are left hanging like that for how long??? Felt unsatisfied with the ending unlike the other 6 books where you felt good about finishing the book....I guess that keeps us waiting for the next one which I will read for sure.

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  16. I agree with many of the above comments. I, too, am a diehard Outlander fan. With that said, it is to my great relief that I'm not the only one that thought this book was wordy without apparent cause. There were times during the "William" scenes that I was like "C'mon, enough already." Felt the same way about the lengthly prose on the war. It was much more laborious than I'm accustomed to with this series. I do hope it pays off in further publications. I'll definitely read them because I absolutely love this series. I suppose I was just hoping for more about Jamie, Claire, Roger, Brianna, the letters, etc... I was so disappointed when the end came with so many unanswered questions. Hoping for a better book next time.

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  17. Huge fan, sorely dissappointed with this book! It was almost like she had a certain page limit and just stopped writing.... Maybe the next one will bring it all back to life for me.

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  18. I have to say that I agree with you on how diappointing the ending was on this book!! I am inthralled with this series and I will wait miserably until the next book is released to find out what happened next?

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  19. All great comments in support of how I am feeling about this last book and why I am actually finding myself reading other reviews. Before I would not have cared because the series is a personal treasure to follow. I agree with comments about the sections and wordiness, and read on thinking if I didn't I would miss one of those magic moments that ties it into the series, but they never came. When I didn't know the book has published yet and had a plan to re read some of the previous books before it came out. To my suprise one day it was on the shelf and I hadn't reread. I went back to Drums of Autumn. When each book ended I thought great keep reading to continue the story. So now with Echo the story just ended with lots of unfinished business and did all this in the last few 100 pages. Like other comments I checked to make sure I hadn't missed anything. I guess we wait another 3 years and continue to read and put trust in the fact that she has created magic in the past books and is obviously (hopefully) taking us somewhere fantastic to leave us loyal fans hanging.

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  20. These comments are bang-on! I love the series... I discovered it last summer and have spent the last 6 months making my way through the 7 books (I haven't slept nearly enough as a result!). Overall, the writing is excellent and will probably be enough to keep me coming back. But this last book was too-much-war not enough what-happens-to-the-characters-we-care-about. I have rarely been so frustrated with the end of a book. The last-minute cliffhangers are just infuriating (especially now that I have to wait so long to find out what happens!). Like the previous poster said -- I hope this is going to take us somewhere fantastic.

    I read in an interview (or a post on her website maybe) somewhere that Diana Gabaldon says that she doesn't necessarily write sequentially. She might write different scenes at different times, and I think in some ways that shows in this book. There are scenes that are just somewhat random happenings and not integral to the story.

    Regardless, I'm dying to find out what happens next.

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  21. I JUST finished Echo in the Bone even thought I pre-ordered it. I agree, too much war. 1)I kind of felt the same way I felt when reading Gone with the Wind - enough history, more character interaction. Still loved GWTW, though. 2) I liked the addition of seeing things through other characters. For so long Diana has only shown us Claire and some of Jamie. It was nice to get to know some of the other characters. 3) The vocabulary! I consider myself an educated person. I love literature and have a graduate degree, but having to stop and look up word meanings every other page was tedious. (I have never liked my dictionary.com app on my iphone so much.) Yes, Diana, we know you are a super brainiac with a PhD in PLANTS who can go on and write interesting and passionate love stories. How about for the last (? we've heard that one before) book scale back the vocabulary so most people don't just skip over words. It demeans the work and weakens the story. 4) A long the same lines, while I'm on a rant, if I have to read anything resembling "a sudden chill, despite the cold" I may scream. 5)Sooooooo disappointed in the ending, or lack there of, that my head was left in a fog. Not the satisfied, can't wait for more feeling I had with EVERY other book. Overall, the book was so laborious (anyone want a dictionary, ha ha) that I had to suppliment my interest with other books while I was reading Echo. Alas, I will wait with baited breath for the next, and hopefully last (Jamie and Clair must be nearing 70) book.

    Ironically, looking over my post I hope it is not too long for anyone to take the time to read it. If you got this far, thanks!

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  22. Joan- LOL! Thanks for commenting.

    I'm glad people keep finding my review and commenting. It definitely wasn't perfect but I know I'll keep reading until the end of the series.

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  23. I'm surprised you all made it to the seventh book. The first three books are EXCELLENT (one of my favorite series ever), the fourth was pushing it with whiny Briana bogging down much of the novel, and when Fiery Cross took 150 pages to describe one day, I knew it was time to say goodbye to Gabaldon. I truly think she started to believe the hype created by her diehard fans--you know, the fans that say every sentence she writes is gold and that they couldn't suffer the books being even one word shorter lest they lose the "magic." Somewhere along the way she stopped editing. So sad, as Outlander itself was such a masterpiece.

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  24. I enjoyed Echo but agree with others, a little less of the war scenes and more on the people. Where there's Jamie, war seems to follow!!
    I loved the first couple of books but felt they started to go down hill after that however after finishing Echo and with another 3-4 years to fill in, I started re-reading the series and have liked them better.
    I so hope DG thinks of her fans and speeds up the release date of the final book.

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  25. Does anyone know where an active blog for this book can be found? I just finished it and I have questions!! And comments....lol
    Gina

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  26. Gina- There was a website hosted by the Ladies of Lallybrock I used to visit. If they are still posting, that's the place to go.

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